60 jobs go as cash crisis closes garages

THE boss of a garage chain forced to shut its doors with the loss of 60 jobs hopes redundant workers could find work with new owners.

Sutton Park Garages had to close after running into financial trouble. Receivers were called in following a crunch meeting with bankers.

Five outlets in Maidstone -- Sutton Road, Upper Stone Street and Brunswick Street, including Citroen, Saab and Hyundai dealerships -- and one in Headcorn closed.

However, two -- Headcorn and Bodyline Accident Repair Centre, Maidstone -- have since reopened under new management.

David Payne, managing director, blamed the closure on bankers who, he claimed, had failed to cover a short-term cashflow problem.

"We are looking for new owners," he said. "I'm rushing around looking to find new people to put in some of these places as fast as possible."

He was sorry that 60 people had been made redundant, and he was one of them. "I'm hoping that many could be re-employed," he said.

He admitted there had been "a few casualties," but claimed "not many" customers had lost deposits on cars.

"Most were honoured and sorted," he said. "I can't think of a single customer who has come out of this badly. We've gone about it to protect all of our customers."

Mr Payne claimed that his bank had "changed their criteria”. He said: "It's purely cashflow. We were within our overdraft limit but we had arranged for a peaking facility as we've done every March and September (or August) for the last 10 years."

Receivers Moore Stephens, based in Chatham, were unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, the Headcorn garage is back in business. David and Hayley Hawkins took over the lease and former staff. "It's business as usual," said Mrs Hawkins.

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